Spore "The Most Pirated Game of the Year"

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Matt Barton's picture

Since we've been talking so much about DRM controversy lately, I thought I'd post this news item: Spore the Most Pirated Game of 2008. The data is based on torrent stats. There's also a link to our friend site GameSetWatch that provides a lovely overview of the issue and "countermeasures." Interestingly, Svennson of the PC Gaming Alliance seems to share my views on the issue; the DRM needs to be as unobtrusive and not inconvenience the user any more than absolutely necessary (indeed, I'd like to see it handled at purchase time and that be the end of it). However, one interesting part of the article is that people who get pirated copies sometimes end up with a lot more bugs (an effect of the not-so-well-cracked DRM). This wouldn't be a big deal, but these types tend to complain loudly about the "bugs," assuming that these bugs are in the game rather than a result of being cracked. This reputation can, in turn, persuade innocent gamers not to buy the game--since no one wants to get stuck with something buggy. It's an intriguing insight that I hadn't seen before.

Anyway, a few questions arise from this. One, are people more likely to pirate a game if they hear it has "nasty" DRM (i.e., securom, etc.?) I think the answer is a definite YES. Two, does this mean that "nasty" DRM is, in effect, self-defeating, since it might very well be driving people who would otherwise buy the game to pirate it instead?

I personally don't care if a game wants to do an internet check, provided that it is reliable and doesn't break on me. However, this would be a huge inconvenience if I didn't have always-on broadband. These checks should be sporadic, though--once upon installation, and maybe once a week or so if I continue to play the game.

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Bill Loguidice
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Piracy - Actually those figures are only partial
GeneralDebacle wrote:

Just a side thought on the piracy issue; If anyone who has knowledge in business taxation, perhaps they could explain how the "Business losses" tax breaks work? Perhaps the Piracy issue is being overblown to get hold of greater taxation concessions. Just a thought.

That's an interesting theory, but they'd all have to be in on it, and those piracy figures released were done independently and only focused on file sharing services. So, if anything, those piracy figures are actually LOWER than the reality.

Also, I'm not sure you can take a loss on sales you didn't make like that. You can take a loss on returns and unsold inventory, but not on theoretical sales, which that would be. I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Rowdy Rob
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Judas Priest and DRM
Matt Barton wrote:

I just bought the latest Judas Priest album (Nostradamus) and have been quite happy with it! :)

Judas Priest has a new album?!?!? I checked your link, thinking it had to be that replacement singer, but no, Rob Halford is back! I've been seriously out of the loop, considering I was a serious Judas Priest metalhead in high school! ("Screaming for Vengeance" is still my favorite "metal" album of all time!) I read your review on "Amazon," thanks to your link, and you have no right to review a Judas Priest album, since you're a newbie! :-)

Ok, back on topic....

I still like the Bruce Lee philosophy, "Go with what works." DRM clearly hasn't worked for the music industry, and I doubt it will work for the videogame industry. People, even the less-technically-inclined, are becoming wise to the limitations of DRM-infested music. While it might work for short-term profits(?), in the long term, DRM will create a "vacuum" in videogame history, where no current game will be playable except via unreliable "crack" versions in the future. Twenty years from now, unless the DRM issue is bypassed or "cracked" reliably, no one will be able to enjoy the pleasures of the early 21st century games such as "Spore" or "GTA IV" as they were intended to be played, and not rendered "unplayable" by copy-protection tricks to hobble the gameplay to pirates.

From a money-making standpoint, that might be fine, but if I was a game creator, from my "artiste" perspective, I would want my creation(s) to be seen for what they were, and not "hobbled" by whatever tricks the copy-protectionists would do to the real gameplay. And since we cannot guarantee the survival of the game companies in question, it could be that the only surviving copies of such games in the future would be the "hobbled" cracked copies.

qoj hpmoj o+ 6uo73q 3Jv 3svq jnoh 77V

Matt Barton
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Markets

What a fascinating argument! I really wonder about that.

Once thing I've noticed (and granted, I'm no business expert), but businesses love to blame everything on "the economy," as if it was some force beyond people making decisions whether or not to buy stuff. Companies who make shoddy merchandise (i.e., American car makers) would love to blame "the economy" or some such nonsense rather than blame their product line (which was and is still heavily invested in SUVs and heavy pick-up trucks even after gas prices skyrocketed) and obsolete structuring (think of how many decision makers lie between the workers on the floor and the CEO; Japanese companies have 1/4 to 1/6 that number). As far as I'm concerned, America has long been whipped in terms of manufacturing and ought to just throw in the towel.

Another good instance--airlines. They are so poorly managed that the government has to keep bailing them out. Of course it's "the economy." No, it's the terrible service, horribly outdated practices, awful prices, uncomfortable security, etc. I'd frankly rather not take most trips than endure the hassles and rudeness of flight.

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Calibrator
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Mishaps & and "Mishaps"
Matt Barton wrote:

Once thing I've noticed (and granted, I'm no business expert), but businesses love to blame everything on "the economy," as if it was some force beyond people making decisions whether or not to buy stuff.

And games companies like to blame everything on the illegal copying of games.
While that is surely true to some extent there have been games that really deserved to sell badly - the public isn't always stupid.

Quote:

Companies who make shoddy merchandise (i.e., American car makers) would love to blame "the economy" or some such nonsense rather than blame their product line (which was and is still heavily invested in SUVs and heavy pick-up trucks even after gas prices skyrocketed) and obsolete structuring (think of how many decision makers lie between the workers on the floor and the CEO; Japanese companies have 1/4 to 1/6 that number). As far as I'm concerned, America has long been whipped in terms of manufacturing and ought to just throw in the towel.

Something I heard recently: It seems that GM had a loss of 80 billion dollars in the last eight years - which coincide with the regime of Rick Wagoner. This of course imposes the question on the curious reader what he did to avert such losses...

When looking at the cars that were presented at the 2007 and 2008 Detroit Motor Show - fat ugly tanks that dwarf even a hummer (Cadillac Escalade) - we sat here in Germany at our tables and said "Shock & Awe!".
But not only American car makers brought these monstosities onto the stage but also European/German ones like Audi (most powerful diesel SUV with 500 PS - who *needs* that?). However, they often have a joker in their sleeves: Daimler manufactures not only the Mercedes brand but also the tiny Smart cars, for example.
Daimler (which still holds 30% of Chrysler) and BMW also have American plants and are therefore under much pressure, too, and it will be very interesting to see what happens next.

Let us take a short excursion to a German GM daughter: Opel

What you may or may not know is that about two years ago GM tried to close several (profitable) plants of their European daughters ("Opel" and "Saab").
The situation was resolved because of spontaneos walkout of and solidarity between the workers (no official "strike" as the rules for a strike are legally fixed).
I don't know about Saab but Opel continued to profitably market smaller cars in Germany and I guess that GM was quite happy with them.
Then the financial crisis began and after the German government announced a help program Opel asked behind closed doors if it would apply to them also. They wanted to no immediate credit but an intermediate credit in the case of "no money from the mothership". Obviously Opel delivers parts to GM and waits for the money.
The regional German state government Opel has its base then leaked that information to the press - together with their intention to help Opel.
You see, election time is coming up shortly and 30.000 workers may just suffice to help the current government get reelected.
However, they and the *national* German government don't really want to pay the money because they fear that Opel will transfer it to GM instead of using it themselves - leaving Opel in the dust.
One of the reasons for being cautious is a very stupid (or corrupt?) money transfer several weeks ago when Lehman Bros. collapsed: A German state bank transfered more than 300 million Euros to Lehman a day *after* they announced bankruptcy. This was so incredibly stupid (the good old term "stupid German money" applies again!) that the public was very agitated and another of these "mishaps" can't happen.

Quote:

Another good instance--airlines. They are so poorly managed that the government has to keep bailing them out. Of course it's "the economy." No, it's the terrible service, horribly outdated practices, awful prices, uncomfortable security, etc. I'd frankly rather not take most trips than endure the hassles and rudeness of flight.

I can't judge your opinion about the quality of service as I have never flown with an US airline but there were some news in the last days that US airlines will have less economic problems than European (or even German) airlines.
Apparently they prepared better for the financial problems that already begin to emerge while "our" airlines will have to bring prices down because of *two* reasons: Less customers AND the sinkink oil price (they had a "fuel markup" while the oil price was high).

Interesting times indeed.

take care,
Calibrator

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Matt Barton
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Well considering my review

Well considering my review is one of over 200, I doubt it will lead anyone astray! :P

For fun I've been listening to this as well: How to Listen to and Understand Opera . I've only been to one opera in my life, so this is a real, uh, ear-opener for me. The lecturer is really funny, with a nice voice somewhat reminiscent of Casey Casum. Anyway, it's amazing how similar metal is to opera--at least in terms of emotional content, scope, and structure.

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Calibrator
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Here are some good news:

Ubisoft does NOT use DRM copy protection on two new games:

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20081212-pc-prince-of-persia-contai...

Let me fill you in on something we've learned in the past year: PC gamers do not like DRM. EA was reminded of this the hard way, and every PC release that includes SecuROM inspires legions of gamers to claim that they'll refuse to buy the game because of the program's inclusion. Ubisoft has heard you, and the retail, boxed version of Prince of Persia on the PC has absolutely no copy protection.

You won't even need the disc in the drive - that's what I call customer service!

"You're right when you say that when people want to pirate the game they will but DRM is there to make it as difficult as possible for pirates to make copies of our games," Community Manager UbiRazz wrote on the official forum. "A lot of people complain that DRM is what forces people to pirate games but as PoP PC has no DRM we'll see how truthful people actually are. Not very, I imagine."

From what I've read from a German games portal they will also publish "Shaun White Snowboarding" without DRM features.
Let's hope that they sell masses of these games so that they'll stay DRM-free in the future!

But there's more interesting stuff in the article:

Ubisoft has already had its eye blackened a few times recently when it comes to DRM and piracy. Assassin's Creed suffered from a shoddy PC port, and the game constantly tried to authenticate online, causing problems for players who bought the game. "The address is 216.98.48.53:3074 random local, 3 attempts every 75 seconds, registering to Ubisoft in Ontario. DRM messing with honest patrons again... as long as the game is running it will keep hammering away at that address," one forum member wrote. Gamers often had to shut off their Internet connection to play the game.

Great - this makes Assassin's Creed a worthy candidate for my shitlist.
I didn't buy it *yet* because of not much time recently but now I can abstain from it.

In another case, a patch for Rainbow Six Vegas 2 broke the game for some people; the game asked for the CD to be placed in the drive, and of course players who purchased the game online had no disc. Ubisoft's solution? Copy a CD crack from a warez group and issue it as a patch. If you can't beat pirates, you can at least take their work and pass it on as a cheap way to fix your messes. The irony was delicious, but gamers were not amused.

Ha! They did exactly the same for the version of Ghost Recon that was bundled with my old MSI Geforce 5900XT graphics card!
The game could be installed but not started - the Ubisoft-"patch" was byte-identical to the one from GameCopyWorld I downloaded because I suspected so much (which publisher sends only a zipped EXE of a game to a customer, after all?).

take care,
Calibrator

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GeneralDebacle (not verified)
Prince of Persia will sell

Prince of Persia will sell well I would imagine.

Unless it sucks. In which case, due to the gaming journalists being totally useless and falling over each other to give the biggest score to anything released by the big boys, the suits would have to descend into the forums to find out what gamers really think.

Rowdy Rob
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Prince of Persia
GeneralDebacle wrote:

Prince of Persia will sell well I would imagine.

Unless it sucks. In which case, due to the gaming journalists being totally useless and falling over each other to give the biggest score to anything released by the big boys, the suits would have to descend into the forums to find out what gamers really think.

The original "Prince of Persia" is among my all-time favorite games! I loved it!

The 3D "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" by UbiSoft is also one of my all-time favorites as well, although I DON'T recommend it. "Huh?" you ask. "PoP:Sands of Time" was great in almost every way (GORGEOUS graphics, great story, great action, etc.), but had a nearly fatal flaw: the "camera." "Sands of Time" had the worst camera problem of any game I have ever played, and only sheer determination made me play it all the way through. The frustration with the camera is why I don't recommend it, although I still strongly recommend the game. Uh, I guess I'm giving it a cautious recommendation, even though you must play the game! (Ok, I admit I'm nuts.)

There's so much "great" in "PoP:SoT" to recommend. The action puzzles are fun and amazing, and the Prince has a female companion that is one of the BEST NPC's EVER in an action game; she has spunk, she is useful in ways the Prince cannot be, and is a good fighter in her own right. Her "character" was a great triumph, and I can't recall a better NPC in an action game that I've ever played. You really want to see her and the Prince "hook up" at the end. She is, in my mind, the textbook example of how to do an NPC in an action game, and really pushes "Sands of Time" over the top.

The Prince himself is a great acrobat, with "stunts" that put Jackie Chan to shame, while still being believable! It made me want to run up walls myself! (Although not now, I have a cracked rib!)

Ok, now, about the camera. The problem with the "camera" is that it keeps switching "viewpoints" in the middle of action sequences. For example, the bridge is collapsing, and you have to run forward before the bridge collapses. So you push "up" on your joystick, moving your character forward. Suddenly, the viewpoint switches to side view, and pushing "up" means the prince now runs off the side of the bridge, falling to his death.

There are so many such "camera" moments in the game, only the "greatness" of everything else compelled me to see myself through such frustrations. You kind of have to play the "camera" moments like "Dragon's Lair," knowing ahead of time when to switch directions on the joystick to compensate for the camera viewpoint. The camera is your greatest enemy in this game, and nearly kills what is otherwise one of the greatest games ever made!

So "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time" gets a cautious recommendation from me. I would rate the game a "classic," one of the best games of all time, if not for the camera problems, but I still fondly remember the game, and still consider it a great game. The sequel, "PoP: The Warrior Within" solves the camera problem (mostly), but has none of the charm of "Sands of Time," and doesn't even seem to have a notable NPC. I didn't finish that game.

I'm looking forward to the new "Prince of Persia" game, though. It sounds like fun! And no DRM??! That is icing on the cake! I'm going to buy it, simply because I love the "PoP" games in general.

Bill Loguidice
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Prince of Persia

There are a few key games that I've honestly never put much time into, and the original Prince of Persia was one of them (I played Prince of Persia 2 more - at least the cool demo where you have to try and jump on the back of the ship that's sailing away at the end). I had actually bought "Prince of Persia Classic" some time back on the Xbox 360's Xbox Live Arcade, but never got a chance to put much time into it until ironically yesterday. I must say, I really love it, despite the high difficulty and overly elaborate animations that sometimes make it difficult to react appropriately. Here's the product page: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/p/princeofpersiaxboxlivearcade/default.htm . In short, I can FINALLY see the appeal of the original now that I finally have a grasp of the controls, which are not casual play friendly (which is part of the reason I had trouble getting into it previously). I have other versions I'll have to try at some point as well for classic systems, like the PC Engine.

I also have a few of the modern 3D updates (though not the first one with Mechner's input on the Dreamcast) for the previous gen of systems. I liked them but didn't put much time into them. Everything I hear about the latest reboot though make it sound like a truly exceptional experience. I just hate that they have to name these games EXACTLY the same as the previous game. Surely plain old "Prince of Persia" like plain old "Alone in the Dark" is unecessary considering the original of each game was not THAT long ago and there have been plenty sequels since.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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